Fires Rage in Beirut as IAF Attacks Port, Fuel Tank

IAF strikes kill 17 Lebanese predawn Mon. including 8 soldiers ; over 40 Lebanese civilians killed in Sunday raids.

The Israel Air Force early Monday attacked the port of Beirut with missiles, bombing a gas tank in a northern neighborhood and shelling the southern suburbs, witnesses and Lebanese media said.

According to the report a large fire broke out in the port, and two people were killed when missiles hit a parking area for trucks next to the harbor, Lebanese media reported.

Sky News TV showed footage of vehicles in flames on the port compound and firefighters rushing to the fire.

Predawn Monday Israel lobbed missiles at targets across Lebanon killing 15 and wounding 53 in a surge of reprisals after Hezbollah rockets slammed into new targets deep inside Israel.

Eight of the dead were Lebanese soldiers who were killed when aircraft attacked a small fishing port at Abdeh in northernmost Lebanon near a highway, about six kilometers from the border with Syria. Witnesses and security officials said 12 others were wounded after the early Monday attack destroyed the position. There was no immediate comment from the military.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the IDF was investigating the incidents. "In principle the Israeli military does not target Lebanese soldiers," the spokesman said.

The northern sectors hit early Monday are far off from Israel, and in zones where the Hezbollah is not known to operate.

The IDF said it had targeted radar stations there, because they had been used by Hezbollah to hit a ship on Friday. It all but accused the Lebanese military of lending its support to Hezbollah.

"The attacks ... are against radar stations used, among other things, in the attack on the Israeli missile boat, by Hezbollah in cooperation with the Lebanese military," the Israeli army spokesman told The Associated Press.

Gunboats apparently aiming at a relay station for Hezbollah's al-Manar television missed their target and hit a house in the Kharroub region south of Beirut. Police said four villagers were killed and 10 wounded.

Israel Air Force planes staged successive airstrikes, targeting neighborhoods in the eastern city of Baalbek where Hezbollah officials have residences. Police had no casualty count. Residents reported that the bombardment, up to 12 missiles in six air raids, was the heaviest on the city, famous for its Roman ruins. The missiles started several fires and kicked up black smoke.

Along the Beirut-Damascus highway at Taanayel in the central section of the Bekaa Valley in the east, an air raid killed two people and wounded 23 at a commercial compound, police said.

IAF jets also struck at the seaport in Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city in the northernmost part of the country. Five troops were wounded, according to witnesses.

It appeared the Israelis targeted Tripoli and other areas deep inside Lebanon to counter the latest salvo of Hezbollah rockets exploding ever further south into Israeli territory late Sunday.

The Hezbollah rockets on the two towns of Afula and Upper Nazareth , about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Lebanese border, showed a range farther south than previous barrages.

8 Lebanese-Canadians die in IAF strike

Eight Canadians were killed in Lebanon on Sunday when an Israel Air Force aircraft attacked their house in a south Lebanon village, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told CTV television.

"All we can say is that there are eight confirmed casualties and six who have been critically injured," he said. Asked to confirm whether this meant eight Canadians had died, he replied: "That's the information that we have to date."

Lebanese Health Ministry officials said earlier that five Lebanese-Canadians, all from the same family, were killed when an IAF aircraft attacked their home in the southern town of Aitaroun, which abuts the border. The target of the raid was not immediately clear.

The victims were not identified. TV stations said the family had come from Canada to spend the summer holidays in the town.

An IDF spokesman said after the Canadians were killed that the IDF had warned residents of the village to clear out of the area and that Hizbollah was responsible for any civilian deaths.

"The IDF requested and warned residents of the area not to stay within range of the launch sites" used by Hizbollah to fire rockets into Israel, the army said in a statement.

"The responsibility for any civilian casualties rests entirely with the Hizbollah terrorist organization," the army said.

An Indian soldier taking part in the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon was wounded late Sunday when two Israel Defense Forces tank shells hit his position in the border village of Houla, a UN spokesman said.

Another base run by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)in a southern village near Bint Jbeil was also hit, but no one was wounded.

"The wounded soldier was evacuated to a medical facility," spokesman Milos Strugar told Reuters. UNFIL was created in 1978, after Israel's first major incursion into southern Lebanon and has been there ever since.

Also late Sunday, IAF aircraft fired missiles at fuel tanks in Beirut's international airport, airport sources said.

The airport, the country's only civilian air outlet to the world, was closed on Thursday by IAF air strikes that came a day after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border attack.

Sunday's bombardment was the fourth time Israel hit the Rafik Hariri International Airport located on the southern edge of the capital since Wednesday when it began its strikes on Lebanon.

Over 40 Lebanese civilians were killed and dozens more wounded in IAF attacks on Lebanon over the course of Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, IAF jets attacked ten rocket launching sites in southern Lebanon. According to the Israel Defense Forces, a mobile Hezbollah missile battery was hit in the strike.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday warned the residents of southern Lebanon to leave their homes within two hours, ahead of Israel Air Force attacks that would follow shortly after the deadline expires.

"We want to say to the population in the south of Lebanon, we want to avoid innocent victims, so we recommend them to leave their villages and homes and go to the north of the country and let us work in the south of Lebanon, because in two or three hours we are going to attack the south of Lebanon heavily," said GOC Northern Command Major General Udi Adam.

An IAF strike on a building on Sunday killed at least 16 civilians and wounded scores in Lebanon's southern port city of Tyre, witnesses said. More feared trapped under the rubble, an official source said.

The warning came after a Hezbollah rocket attack killed eight people and wounded 19 others in the northern port city of Haifa.

"Hezbollah's actions do not surprise us," Adam told reporters. "They've been stockpiling these weapons for many years and the Lebanese government allowed this to happen."

He said that Hezbollah "is in Lebanon not to defend [the country] but to wait for the day they would be able to harm Israel. As far as we are concerned, there are no surprises, and only determination will change the situation."

"We have no intention of dragging Syria into this conflict and all of our steps are cautious and measured. The objective is to change the reality here in Israel and this is why our targets in Lebanon keep changing," he said.

"We have a pretty good idea where they are launching their rockets from - villages and small communities - and [as such] we have warned civilian residents to evacuate their homes," he said.

Another 19 people were killed Sunday in two separate attacks on the southern Lebanese city of Zur.

On Saturday night, Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to step up the rate of attacks against Lebanon. His orders were issued close to the time when Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made a national address and called for an immediate cease-fire.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday again rejected pleas that it call for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon after the United States objected, diplomats said.

Peretz said that the IDF must continue applying pressure on Hezbollah, giving the organization no room to breath, and continue expanding its bombing raids elsewhere.

Hours after the order was made, the IAF launched a wave of bombing raids on the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs Sunday.

A series of loud explosions, about 18 in total, shook the capital, much of which was plunged in darkness after warplanes struck power stations and fuel depots feeding them.

Hezbollah's television station, Al-Manar, said that the IAF bombed the Jiyeh power station early Sunday. The plant, which is located some 20 kilometers south of the Lebanese capital, was in flames in the early hours of the morning, Al-Manar said. The IDF denied the report.

The southern suburbs were struck repeatedly by IAF warplanes Saturday, but the early Sunday raids were the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive last Wednesday, following the killing of eight IDF soldiers and abduction of two others by Hezbollah guerillas.

The TV said a bridge linking the al-Hazmiyah district to the road that leads to the airport, south of the capital, was also targeted.

In Israel, the military confirmed that IAF jets were bombing the Hezbollah headquarters in south Beirut.

A heavy bombardment in the early hours of Sunday targeted the Al-Manar building, the IDF said.

The station's signal twice disappeared briefly before returning, and it was not immediately known if it was broadcasting from its original location.

The extent of the damage caused to the suburbs could not be established because the area is deemed too dangerous for journalists to visit. Most of the raids target an area known as the "security square," where Hezbollah has its headquarters, destroyed in a Friday air strike, and where some of its leaders live.

Most residents of the suburbs, which is in reality a part of the Lebanese capital, have fled their homes for the relative safety of the Beka'a Valley, a mainly Shiite region to the east of Beirut.